Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ticks & Lyme Disease FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about Lyme Disease, thanks to the awesome American Academy of Pediatrics resource, Healthy Children!

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The incidence of Lyme is highest in children 5-9 and middle-aged adults. The bacteria causing Lyme are transmitted by deer or field mice. The size of the tick is like the size of a sprinkle, or pencil point. Although most cases of Lyme are in the northeastern parts of the US, there are other tick-bourne illnesses than can be avoided in the same manner we’ll describe here.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Not all children and adults have the classic symptoms of Lyme, so it is incredibly important to see your own doctor with any prolonged illness. Some early signs of Lyme include:
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Circular Red rash (with a white center, “bull’s eye rash”) that may grow in time 
  • Headaches 
  • Mild neck stiffness 
  • Muscle and joint aches 
Later symptoms may include a more widespread reaction throughout the body and affect the nervous system (meningitis and temporary paralysis of the facial muscles). If recognized early and treated effectively, it is highly unlikely that there will be permanent (late stage) symptoms of Lyme. Later—and chronic—symptoms of Lyme include a form of arthritis called Lyme arthritis more chronic forms of meningitis, infection of the brain, or infection of the heart leading to an abnormal heart rhythm.

How to Prevent Tick Bites
  1. Keep your child away from tick infested areas as much as possible. 
  2. If you are in a tick infested area, stay on cleared trails and away from overgrown grass. 
  3. If in a high risk area, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to cover exposed areas. Tuck pants into socks/boots and consider a hat. 
  4. Talk to your pediatrician about chemical and non-chemical creams and sprays that may reduce tick bites. 
  5. Once you come inside from play, wash the skin (bath every day!) and carefully check the entire body (yes, between the butt cheeks, behind the ears, comb through the hair) for any signs of a bit. 
What Do You Do If You Find A Tick?

If you see a small black or grey spot on yourself or your child, like a poppy seed stuck in the skin, think “tick”! If you take a tick off early, it is unlikely for the disease to be transmitted (takes about 36 hours for the tick to cause Lyme). I, personally, take out ticks on my children because I am a doctor and know how to do it properly. Some may choose to go to the pediatrician to have the tick removed, or call for advice. Here are some tips on how to take out a tick at home, safely, courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
  1. Use a cotton ball soaked in alcohol to gently clean the area of the skin around the tick bite. 
  2. Next, grab the tick with fine tweezers as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it straight out. Do not use a twisting motion and try not to squeeze the tick’s body. If you use your fingers to get rid of the tick, protect them with a tissue, cloth, or gloves and then wash your hands once the tick is removed. 
  3. Cleanse your child’s bitten area with alcohol or another first-aid ointment. Be sure the tick is dead before you dispose of it.